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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Axcess

Date: December, 1996

Transcribed by
Jennifer (jenng@telerama.lm.com)


  page: 
 title: The Tool of Provocation,Justin Chancellor offers scabs for thougt
author: Leah Lin

I spent the last couple of nights seeing the first few dates of the
Tool tour. Two questions are worrying me, and they seem to have a 
direct relationship to each other: 1) Why are Tool fans so ardent, and 
2) why are human beings drawn to things that disturb them? Why do we 
slow down and strain to look at a car accident? Why is it exhilarating 
to be frightened? What is the fascination for that which is hideous or 
disfigured? I am not pondering anything new or anything that you 
probably havenít already asked yourself. As children, we are scolded 
to stop looking at the man with one arm, or turn away from the blood 
scattered across a shattered windshield, only to grow up and turn away 
when we are caught staring or stare until we are sickened.
        
I found myself staring at vocalist Maynard James Keenan in much the
same manner as I might look at someone who is tragically 
crippled--with curiosity, squeamishness, personal relief and, finally, 
compassion. Keenan rocked back and forth on stage, teetering like an 
ancient rocking horse, slouched and contorted into a posture that made 
him seem physically deformed. There was no visible strain in his neck 
as he sang in a voice that was painfully fragile, yet somehow so 
strong and commanding that my ears took my mind off looking at him. I 
felt embarrassed to be staring at him so blatantly, my jaw slung open 
in awe.
        
As I watched Tool perform live, time seemed to stand still, these
thoughts swirling through my head. I snapped to my senses when I heard 
the opening bass riff of my current favorite song, "Forty-six &2" off 
the new album, nima.
        
nima is Toolís second full length album and third recording. The
first, an EP entitled Opiate, was released in March of 1992. Undertow, 
the bands first full length disc, was released in April of 93. This 
album brought Tool to the Lollapalooza stage, a show they should have 
headlined. It spawned two distinctively disturbing, stop-motion 
animated videos. The first was "Sober," which won two Billboard Video 
Awards. The second, "Prison Sex," was nominated for Best Special 
Effects at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. Undertow went platinum 
within a year of its release, and the readers of Spin Magazine voted 
Tool "Number One Artist." Bass player Paul DíAmour left the band in 
September of 95.
        
Which, sort of, brings us up to date? Back to the first few dates
of the nima tour, back to the enthusiastic Tool fan, up to Justin 
Chancellor (Toolís new bassist), and back to "Forty-six & 2." This 
song, more than any other on the album, is a product of the new and 
improved Tool. Justin, formerly of the UK band Peach, has been a 
member of Tool just one year now, and pinpoints "Forty-six & 2" as the 
first song he really contributed to.
        
"(I had a big part in) songs like 'Forty-six & 2.' I think that there 
is a whole different recipe now between the four of us. Iíve always 
liked a lot of heavy stuff, but, more than that I am into a more 
sonically psychedelic sound. I have brought a lot of depth, a lot of 
color and texture to the band."

"Basically we wrote all the songs together, except four of them:
Stinkfist, nima, Eulogy, and Pushit (were pretty much finished).  The 
rest was the four of us.  When I first came out, I kind of went into 
my shell a little bit because it was pretty overwhelming. At this 
point, I am completely myself again, totally relaxed and getting on 
with everyone. Itís really cool. I was actually surprised how much 
respect they had. I mean, I always had that for them, but I wasnít 
expecting to be treated as such an equal that it has turned out to 
be."
        
Justinís brother bumped into Matt Marshall while traveling in the
US, and the two became friends. They would exchange demos, one of 
which was Toolís. Matt turned out to be the A&R person who signed Tool 
to Zoo Entertainment. When Peach came to America on a short tour, 
Justin met Matt through his brother. Matt would later introduce Peach 
to Tool.
        
"(Peach) had four gigs here where we had to sneak our guitars in
through customs. We played Club Lingerie, Black and Blue, really small 
gigs. Matt was a good friend of my brother. My brother ran his own 
label, Mad Minutes at the time. Both he and Matt were working in 
music, so they sent each other stuff. I first met (Tool) in New York 
when they were touring with the Rollins Band. When Tool came to 
England for an eight-date tour, they took (Peach) out with them."
        
By this time, Justin had become a huge fan of Tool and Tool a fan of
Justin.  When Paul D'Amour left the band, guitarist Adam Jones called 
and asked him if he'd like to try out. Justin moved to the States a 
year ago November, when he found himself in the enviable position of 
fan and band member.
        
"It feels like I have been away from England for years now," says
Justin. "It's weird, because all of my friends are doing the same 
thing that they were doing before and I feel like I'm in space or 
something. Tool is the only band that I would have left what I was 
doing to join. They are my favorite band. It is just now getting 
really comfortable. There is that immediate kind of fear that you're 
not going to be worthy. If you are a fan of someone else's music, then 
when youíre suddenly expected to help write it... there is a bit of 
apprehension."
        
I can't help asking Justin if he ever catches himself staring at
Maynard in astonishment, as I admittedly have done. He has, and is 
quick to elaborate on each of his other bandmates: drummer Danny Carey 
(34), Adam (31), and Maynard (somewhere in between).
        
Danny Carey once worked with Green Jello, played drums in Pygmy Love
Circus (whose Marco Fox contributes the vocals for "Die Eier Von 
Satan"), and "...is probably most similar character-wise" to Justin.
        
"Danny is great. He's in his thirties going on 12. We like to hang 
out, go out, where Adam and Maynard are slightly weirder and not as 
accessible. Danny is a really open, straight-up person.  I'm kind of 
like that as well.
        
"Maynard is an intense personality. I remember when I first saw Tool 
it was kind of the same thing. I didnít take it as being scary. I took 
it as being totally intense--something that really sucked me in, 
watching him. I always looked up to him a bit before, because he was 
so cool with my last band, being very supportive. He has his moments, 
but now we have all learned each other's personality traits and got 
used to each other."
        
In January of 1994, Adam Jones was hard at work on the video for
"Prison Sex."  He took time out of a nearly 24-hour, non-stop, month 
long schedule to talk with Axcess when I first met him. He had 
previously supported himself as a sculptor and special effects artist 
on movies such as Terminator 2 and Predator, where he learned 
stop-motion camera techniques. Tool's "Prison Sex" and "Sober" 
required excruciatingly focused patience from Adam. To get one second 
of film footage, a total of 24 pictures had to be taken--moving the 
models a tiny fraction, taking a photo, again and again, and again.  
Where Maynard is visually and vocally intense, Adam is twice that when 
it comes to the visuals that accompany Tool's music.
        
As the band takes a two day break in San Francisco, Adam is flying
back to LA for one day to finish the video for "Stinkfist," a video 
that they refer to as experimental. Justin reflects on the past year 
in amazement as he describes his part in the creation of the video.
        
"The video is another really, really cool thing for me. When I found 
out that I got in the band, I was really excited about that side of 
things as well. I'm not necessarily a full on artist, but I have 
always drawn and been into that side of things. For the video I just 
started off helping out, cleaning molds and stuff.  We were all making 
the effects.  I started off doing these menial little jobs and 
learning.
        
"By the end of it, I did these three sculptures, where we took a
body cast of my girlfriend. I had to pour out these molds and make 
them all in different positions. So I had these three sets of 
different limbs and stuff where I had to break them up and put them 
back together. They are like and embryo inside a tank or jar or 
something, but a full-size body. I would be working all night until 
morning, to where I ended up being just as focused as Adam. By the end 
of it, I was like, 'Fuck, I am doing all this shit that I wouldn't 
have had a clue about before.'
        
"We've got them on tour with us as part of the staging, along with a
projected backdrop. It's pretty much all the videos, stuff that Adam 
has collected. We just found this new load of stuff, close-ups of 
chemical reactions in little petri dishes. It looks like something out 
of Star Wars, but it's actually just this little chemical reaction 
that's all trippy and very surreal looking."
        
Justin describes the beginning of the tour as grueling. The first date 
in Pomona, California, he didnít look up from the stage once. The 
second date in San Diego, he glanced out into the crowd only a few 
times.
        
"It was kind of funny, because Pomona was pretty horrible for me,
being my first show. We'd only practiced like six times, because we 
were finishing up on the video. I like playing and touring. I mean 
I've never really toured more than those eight gigs in a row. I found 
that in England the feeling that you get afterwards is 'Wow, I want to 
do that again.' Itís an amazing opportunity to keep playing and 
improving every time you play."
        
It seems that Tool has welcomed Justin into the fold completely.
One of the descriptive characteristics of Tool's music is the fact 
that the bass parts of the music are played more like guitar parts, 
not just as accompanying rhythm parts. Tool has prided itself as a 
true band, each part being equally as important as the other. This 
concept is illustrated by the way Tool writes songs and by the 
importance they put on their lyrics as part of the song as a whole.
       
"Adam was probably the person that I knew most, so I was pretty
comfortable with him, and we had even jammed a bit before any  of this
happened. We have a very similar writing style. That really helps with 
the foundations of songs. We click really good. I played guitar for 
many years, so I can totally appreciate what he is doing, and he 
appreciates what I am doing. We really like to explore an idea.  There 
is never a question of someone bringing in a song and saying 'Look 
I've written a song.  This is it.'  We bring in ideas and throw them 
about, and we play with them and explore them until we think we have 
found the most appropriate way of using them.  Sometimes it can be 
frustrating, but you need that little bit of tension and aggro to push 
it to another level. That song 'Forty-six & 2,' that started off as me 
bringing up an idea and Adam and I just messing around with it."
        
"Forty-six & 2" begins with Justin's riff that is as erotic as it is
tormenting. Lyrically, it refers to the possible evolution of the 
genetic make-up of man. "Human beings' DNA is 44 and two," Justin 
explains. "Two pairs of 22 and the x and the y chromosomes. Forty-five 
and two is supposedly the next stage of our genetic makeup that we 
will evolve into."
        
Shadows. Shedding skin. I've been picking scabs again. Up down, 
digging through, my old muscles, for a clue I've been crawling on my 
belly, Figuring out what could have been. I've been wallowing in my 
own confused, insecure delusions. For a beast to cross me over, or a 
word to guide me in, I want to feel the changes coming down, I want to 
know what Iíve been hiding. In my shadow. My shadow. Change is coming, 
through my shadow. My shadow, shedding skin, Iíve been picking my 
scabs again.

I've been crawling on my belly, clearing out what could have been, 
I've been wallowing in my own chaotic, insecure delusions. I want to 
feel the change consume me, feel the outside turning in. I want to 
feel the metamorphosis and cleansing out enjoying. My shadow. My 
shadow. Change is coming, now it's my time... forty-six and 2, just 
ahead of me.

Picking scabs hurts and wallowing in confusion isnít the most
comfortable of positions. But to Tool, anything that is worthwhile 
isn't easy and should hurt. Lachrymology is the science or study of 
crying. According to a 1994 interview, Danny stated that the band name 
Tool was shortened from Toolshed, and that Tool stands for how they 
want their music to be a tool to aid in the understanding of 
lachrymology.

Lachrymology's founder Ronald P. Vincent believes that people can only
advance themselves by exploring and understanding their physical and
emotional pain. If you can embrace that notion, Tool becomes less 
scary. But don't expect the band ever to spell anything out, or make 
it a bit easier to draw such conclusions by printing their own lyrics.
        
"Personally, I think it's a good thing not to print the lyrics,
because it puts a lot more importance on them," says Justin. "I'd be 
happy not ever to do that.  When you buy the record, you have to make 
the effort to study it and listen to it and work out what is going on. 
 If you want to hear what is going on you should spend the time to 
listen to it. Also, when you print lyrics they become immediately out 
of context--they are on a piece of paper. That is not the way they are 
supposed to be. They are part of the music as well. They are part of 
the song. You are supposed to listen to them with the music. I think 
that is a big thing with Tool--not putting stuff on a plate for 
people. It requires the listeners participation totally.

Put on a pair of headphones and watch the goosebumps pop up on your
arms as Adam screeches across his guitar strings in the bridge of 
"Eulogy". Seek out information and recordings from the late comedian 
Bill Hicks, who appears in the CD sleeve portrait and whose voice 
ushers in "Third Eye." Do some research on lysergic acid diethyl 
amide, serotonin and the 85% of our brains that we don't use. Consider 
the power of vocal inflection and foreign language on recipes for 
baked goods while listening to "Die Eier Von Satan" and "Message to 
Harry Manback." Or, contemplate how all the songs follow a theme. 
Appreciate that Tool is able to combine all of this into a complex, 
provocative piece of work. nima is easily the best album to come out 
of 1996.
        
The more I think, ask questions, probe, and learn about Tool, they 
less disturbing and more stimulating they become. Tool fans have 
waited three years for this album and made it debut at #2 on the 
Billboard Charts; a feat that was accomplished without mainstream 
radio airplay, without MTV, without compromising any of their subject 
matter or convictions. Justin prefers provocative to disturbing as he 
wraps up out conversation with his theory on why Tool fans are so 
passionate.
        
"Maybe provocative or thought provoking is the way I'd describe
Tool. I can't really say why we have themes that are disturbing in 
some sort of a way. It is not an intention. To me, it is not 
disturbing, it's just kind of... if people are disturbed by that kind 
of stuff, to me, that implies that they are frightened to look too 
close. It's more trying to create some kind of reaction and set some 
kind of a mood. All the artwork, videos and everything are designed to 
focus right into the music and create the mood that will heighten your 
experience of the music. It's not intentionally disturbing. I just 
thinks it's stuff that perhaps people haven't confronted before, and 
so that's a little bit scary. We affect people on a deeper level."
        
Visit their label website at http://www.zoology.com/ and find official
biographical information, tour dates, news about each of the band 
members, and video snippets. Better yet, try http://www.hotbot.com/ 
and search for Tool. Hotbot will modify your search with a keyword 
like Maynard. You will find old interviews, photos, information on 
bootlegs, lyrics, FAQ's and live reviews from people who arenít afraid 
to look closely, maybe even stare awhile and look down some 
perceptions.

Posted to t.d.n: 05/03/97 15:29:57